Now for the panic portion of our program:
It's never good when the phone rings in the middle of the night. It was my brother, sounding anxious. "Have you heard from Dad?" he asked. My brother (who lives with my dad) was calling at 3:30 a.m. to tell me that Dad was supposed to get home on Saturday night, and he was scheduled to teach on Sunday, but he never made it back. He said he woke up in a panic and realized Dad still wasn't home, a day later than he was expected. He was so distraught he even called the Highway Patrol, who told him there were a lot of accidents between here and Monticello, but they hadn't notified all the victims' families yet. That was helpful. (NOT.)
I am not a worrier. I felt no sense of impending doom. And I can usually trust my gut pretty reliably. So the steady older sister in me dutifully tried to explain it away. "He probably just decided to stay an extra day and forgot to tell us." "Maybe they just don't have any cell reception out there in the middle of nowhere." "If you think you can get back to sleep, let's make a few more calls in the morning." He sounded okay with that, but then i couldn't get back to sleep. For the rest of the night I tossed and turned and ruminated. By the time my alarm went off I was in some sort of Twilight Zone...the space between waking and sleep, dream and reality, where you barely remember what's real and what's in your imagination. It was strange to start the day for the first time in my life wondering whether my dad was still alive.
It reminded me of the posts from Luann last summer when her grandpa disappeared for 30 days. That strange world of the unknown is not one I like to inhabit. I prefer to stand on more solid ground. But I had to get up and teach my class, in a dizzying fog that teetered between substance and surrealism. Not my best teaching day, to put it mildly. (Never mind that I met the dean in the parking lot, only to discover that the palette I was carrying had leaked orange and red paint all over my white shirt.) One can only hope to survive with a shred or two of dignity on a day like this.
In the car on the way home I started to fall apart. I broke out in audible sobs, finally confronting the mere possibility that my dad may have met his demise on the road over the weekend. The not knowing almost made it worse. To grieve or not to grieve? Now there's a question. And I'm sure the fact that I had just a couple of hours of sleep didn't help. At all. The once comforting thought I had is that I have no regrets. My dad and I have a great relationship. The last time I saw him we went hiking, and then I took him to UVU to see my students' paintings. We had a great time together. He's one of my best friends. So, truly, no regrets.
I ran in and checked the answering machine as soon as I got home. Hopefully Molly or somebody had some updated information for me. And sure enough, there was a shaky but audible message from Dad: "I'm on the top of an 8500-foot-plateau in Colorado. Having a great time. Please let Ben know I won't be home again tonight, but I'll get there tomorrow." So there it was. He was alive. In Colorado. Nobody knew. But at least he's okay. Turns out he and a buddy visited some old ranchers who owned this amazing property out in the middle of nowhere and invited them to stay in both of their ranch houses (one in Utah, another in Colorado) for a couple of days each.
It took me the rest of the night to recover--both from the physical exhaustion, and from being emotionally drained. Even though I knew everything was okay, I still felt fragile, vulnerable, completely spent.
Today was better. Dad came over with some Anasazi beans to share, told stories of their adventures, and best of all was completely excited and rejuvenated by all the sights. Said he saw two thousand paintings waiting to be made. That is huge. I hate to say it, but I think it was worth the worry.